NATCHITOCHES -- Every time visiting Alcorn made a push in Tuesday night’s women’s basketball game, Northwestern State had an answer.
Many times that came in the form of freshman RaVon Nero.
Nero enjoyed a career-high scoring night for the second straight game, leading the Lady Demons to a 78-65 non-conference victory at Prather Coliseum.
“She did so many things well,” third-year head coach Jordan Dupuy said. “She has some things she’ll grow to do and be really good for us when the conference season rolls around. She’s our most physical presence, despite being a guard, so we used her down low and she was able to power up and score down there.”
Nero tallied 18 of her game-high 25 points in the second half, encapsulating her standout performance in a three-possession run late in the fourth quarter as Northwestern State (2-2) pulled away from a game Alcorn (0-4) squad.
The Lady Demons were their worst enemy in the opening half. By Dupuy’s count, NSU missed 14 first-half layups and 17 for the game. Those misses led to the Lady Demons shooting 39 percent in the first half and had them clinging to a four-point halftime lead – a lead that was built on a four-point Kira Bonner run in the final 27 seconds of the half.
Nero’s second-half surge mirrored that of her team. The Lady Demons hit 13 of 25 second-half shots, boosting their overall shooting percentage to 44.4 percent.
Alcorn, meanwhile, scuffled in the second half, hitting 11 of 37 shots (29.7 percent).
“Our layups would not fall in the first half,” said Nero, who went 7 for 10 from the field in the second half. “We had to settle down, come together and focus on making the easy bucket.”
Nero had a hand in three of those easy, yet key, buckets in a 28-second stretch of the fourth quarter that sealed the victory.
Leading by five, Nero hit a jumper on the wing then dropped a nifty behind-the-back pass to Nautica Grant for a fast-break layup. Coming out of a timeout, Sami Thomas hit Nero on a baseline inbounds pass that Nero finished with a layup that gave NSU its first double-digit lead of the game with 71 seconds to play.
Until Nero’s final bucket, neither team was able to gain more than a nine-point advantage in the first 38-plus minutes of the game.
After NSU took its first nine-point lead, at 49-40, Alcorn’s De’Asia Brown (16 points) connected on 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to cut the lead to three.
“I thought the way we practiced leading up to this game was tremendous,” Dupuy said. “There were a lot of things we practiced that we didn’t implement in the game. I thought we would have a better performance, but credit Alcorn for that.
“That’s a hard-playing group, a scrappy group. They got out in the passing lanes, made shots and changed things up defensively. They kept us off balance.”
The Lady Demons entered Tuesday seventh in the nation in forcing turnovers at 28.3 per game. NSU forced 29 Lady Braves turnovers, turning them into 27 points. Northwestern State outscored Alcorn 27-8 off turnovers and held a plus-10 advantage in turnovers.
The Lady Braves were able to stay close because of a plus-10 rebound advantage that included 21 offensive rebounds.
“The effort is there in forcing the turnovers,” Dupuy said. “We had 27 points off 29 turnovers, which means we’re only converting about half of those opportunities. We had several possessions where we forced a turnover and had a turnover of our own. We have to do a better job of capitalizing on those.”
Bonner and Grant each had 10 points for Northwestern State while Diamond Hall (13), Toddriana Isler (12) and Jada Hagrove (11) joined Brown in double figures for Alcorn.
The Lady Demons return to action Saturday when they host Loyola of New Orleans in the finale of a two-game homestand. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at Prather Coliseum.